Neubauten. ICA. 7.30.
THE ABOVE ad was at the root of
this evening's strange confusion. Scores of revellers
arrived at the door of the ICA to be confronted with a
'sold out' situation (although, with patience, it seemed
that many were able to squeeze in) and a notice, opposite
the entry point but easily missable, to the effect:
'Tonight. Concerto For Voice And
Machinery. This is not an Einsturzende Neubauten
Disgruntled would-be patrons were
heard to exclaim: 'ere, Eric, does that mean that
German band aren't on?" and gained no confidence
from the door person's similar lack of knowledge.
Once inside, I thudded into Mufti.
Sitting on the bar staircase, the Neubauten stalwart was
annoyed that the event had been advertised as a regular
Neubauten gig at all, when in fact, it was the first and
last performance of the aforementioned 'Concerto For
Voice And Machinery'.
He claimed that the ICA had only
allowed them to pin up the above notice on the night and
that Einsturzende Neubauten, as such, intended no London
dates in the immediate future.
As the evening wore on it became
evident that most of the crowd, by now happily rubbing
shoulders with the likes Of Christiana F, Marc Almond and
Andy Warren (who?), were still anticipating a Neubauten
gig or, at least, an hour or so of metal bashing
regardless of what label it might be going under.
Around 10.30 the stage was covered
with road drills, chainsaws, a cement mixer and various
raw materials, most noticeably a piano quietly awaiting
its imminent destruction.
The performers, all wearing goggles
for protection from the fierce showers of sparks flying
from the hot slicings of wood and metal, included
Neubauten regulars Mufti, Marc Chung and Alexander Von
Borsig, plus Genesis P. Orridge, Fadist Frank Tovey, Jila
(from Holland's Schlafose Nacht) and the svelte frame of
Stevo. The latter first toiling at woodsaw and later
switching to an assault on a locker room cabinet.
The noise was intense, violent,
beautiful. A few ran, with fingers wedged in ears, to the
exits as the decibels soared to agony-inducing
proportions. The air became heavy with smoke, sawdust
and, in places, sickly with petrol fumes.
And it was exciting. Madly and
wildly so. People quaked in the bone breaking din,
squealing their delight in a kind of euphoric giddiness.
A sudden taste of forbidden pleasure, fuelled by a
drunken adrenaline pulse of sheer noise and crazed
On the stage, things veered from
gleeful, precise carnage to an exhilaratingly dangerous
chaos. The protagonists jolted and bumped into each
other. At times I seriously expected an arm or a leg to
be severed, the disembodiment then insanely celebrated by
the tossing of the blood-dripping limb into the audience.
Instead, Mufti showered the front
rows with sawdust. The crowd, dense and tight, swaying
around the small hall, fell back in waves as road drills
were flashed at them and a musclebound figure dropped
with one from the stage to begin pummelling the floor.
Someone (characters became
indistinct in the haze) began throwing empty milk bottles
into the cement mixer. The savage rattle of their
crushing was lost in the overall row but the splinters
vomiting out of the device apparently resulted in several
Suddenly the clatter faded and
died. The ICA stewards quickly replaced performers at the
front of the stage. The performers and the gaggle of
photographers snapping from the rear were ushered
backstage and the doors closed on them. No return.
What very few people knew
(including me at the time) was that the piece was only
intended to last 25 minutes. It seemed that the ICA
officials had taken a reactionary view and stopped the
gig, fearful perhaps, for the ongoing upright posture of
The stage continued to be battered,
this time by the angry audience, themselves using any
available implement. A tug-o-war between stewards and a
section of the crowd resulted in a road drill being
hauled back to the stage and rapidly shunted, along with
the rest of the equipment, to the rear.
Next day a Some Bizzare personage
opined: What appeared to be ICA reaction was
actually a combination of the power being switched off
and petrol lines not working. The only damage was a few
small holes in the stage and on the floor. If we'd wanted
to destroy the building we could've just drilled through
the back wall, but what would be the point?"
While the ICA commented:
Initially We'd arranged an Einsturzende Neubauten
concert but various members were unable to perform that
night so it was changed to 'Concerto For Voice And
Machinery' with some of their friends. This would last 25
minutes and is what they were contracted to
They had actually finished,
at least they left the stage after 25 minutes, fulfilling
their contract. People at the front were pushing PA
monitors towards the drills and obviously we wanted to
avoid damage to the PA company's equipment. We certainly
didn't want to be seen to have stopped the group.
Admittedly some of the
audience were unaware that it was only a 25-minute piece
but I don't think a broken PA would have been much of an
The only damage was to the
concrete which they brought themselves and to the piano,
which we provided."
Concrete and road drills, phew!
Possibly the best gig since the crucifixion.
This event was re-enacted at the ICA in 2007